Monthly Archives: January 2006
Metal Gear Solid 3: Rivetting
Spent another Friday evening cuddled up in bed with my partner, youngest daughter, popcorn and the PS2. It happened quite by accident as my partner had decided to replay Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and I got sidetracked by the cut scenes. There are an enormous amount of cut scenes that constantly interrupt gameplay – which my partner found annoying at times, wishing he could just get on with the fighting. Ironically, as a spectator I was annoyed at the interuptions as well, but not for the same reasons… I was annoyed at the interruptions of my movie – the game play disturbed the flow for me, so I found myself telling him to hurry up and “kill that guy already!”. Some nicely done voice-overs, and pretty decent (if not cheezy at times) dialogue. Philosophies on world peace and the path of inner strength and inner peace. I found it poetic – my partner found it painstakingly long.
On a complete side note; I found it interesting that while Snake (and other male cast members) battled on throughout the game, they got increasingly dirtier. When Snake is getting tortured, he has lacerations and bruises, blood and scrapes. Oddly enough, the girls never suffered such dirt and blood during and after battles. Their make-up appeared freshly applied, and their clothes stayed clean – even The Boss’ white body suit… To be fair, when Eva gets impaled by a stick (through both back and front) she did have a small, neat red circle on her jumper. But that cleaned up nicely.
More Game/Film Reflections
Games as film…Not earth shattering news in the world of game studies, but I have been thinking about the differences between the mediums from a few perspectives. First of is the obvious one; games that are intensely narrative driven are the (bastard) children of film. That games are nothing short of interactive cinema. The more I play FFX-2, the more I believe that this theory has some merit (more than I have given it credit in the past). I do think that games have the capacity to move beyond this choose your own adventure style, but I am not so sure solo, narrative-dependent games do so. Sports, racing, network and mmo games do break out of the narrative mode somewhat – but there is still room for innovation.
One of the (obvious) differences is that a game does not need narrative as in depth as a film. This is why (imo) games-cum-movies don’t quite live up to the expectations. Games rely on other elements to entertain. The play elements make up for the lack of solid story, or developed characters. Resident Evil is a great game. But the movie – for me – was little more than the game without the interuptions of the load screen and ‘game over’ resets.
There is also something different in watching someone play a game compared to watching a film. Besides the story line being a bit thinner (although Final Fantasy does not fall into this category), the interuptions of narrative caused by ‘game play’ act alot like commercials for me – an interuption of flow that is disruptive (and usually causes me to talk). The player’s emotions play a part in how I enjoy the game as a spectator. But I wonder what else seperates watching a movie and watching someone play a game.
Finally, a friend mentioned today about work that has been done on collaborative game play that resembles the actor/director relationship. I fell into this category last night when playing FFX-2 with my partner. He was very concerned with the efficiency of my game, directing my navigation… if I spent too much time exploring one corner too long, he would get impatient and tell me to move on. He instructed my battles and sighed when I died. The lesson I’ve learned was to play while he was at work so I could admire the scenery and take as much time I wanted exploring a ‘useless’ zone.
MMO’s for Dummies
It is stated more and more often, that mmo’s are reaching mainstream success demonstrated through the numbers. You can also see this in terms of World of Warcraft, never before have I met so many people where WoW is their first mmog.
So, is THIS a sign of mainstream success or is it a marketing attempt at luring more people into the web of mmog’s?
After putting in my first 2 hours of game play in FFX-2, I am already astonished at the level of micro management I have to do. I am used to MMORPG’s where each individual is responsible to fulfill their role as it pertains to the group as a whole. In solo play, I am responsible for developing the talents, and skills of each group member. When not in combat, this isn’t much to cry about. But in combat, I have to worry about each member’s hp’s, stats, poisons and antidotes… never mind mid combat weapon changes. Surely, this is not news to those who commonly play single player rpg’s, but to me it seems like a lot of arduous multi-tasking!
Learning to Play
In preperation for my move into my solo play, I have been spending the last two days reading the manual that came with the Final Fantasy game. I know it is not protocol for most ‘gamers’ to read before they play, but this is an exception. I am becoming more and more aware of the differences in types of gamers, and realizing that although I played from Pong to Mario to Killer Instinct, my (personal) experience in console games havent moved much beyond that.
I am learning, the hard way, the leaps and bounds of differences between pc gaming and console gaming. The comparison between platforms only begins with the hand/eye coordination requirements. So many buttons on a console controller. So much easier on the pc with my four arrow keys.
Shrinking My Horizons: From massive to solo play
Stepping a bit outside of my element, I have chosen to work with a solo player game for the comparative analysis component of my game studies course. I chose to work with Final Fantasy X-2. Although not a multi-player game, I am still within my comfort zone working with an RPG. I am looking forward to exploring some of my usual research questions surrounding identity construction and maintenance in a single player game. X-2 is an innovative space since it defies some traditional elements of rpg’s such as an open map from the beginning offering broader boundaries to explore during missions.
As for the film, I have chosen Nightmare Before Christmas. Although not an obvious choice for comparison, but I think it will make for some interesting links seeing as how the film is really an exploration of the self for Jack Skellington, which works well with some general concepts of rpg’s in terms of exploration and the development of identity (of both the player and the character).
This project will also give me an opportunity to read outside of my current corpus of literature venturing into film studies to explore the literature on character development via narrative, elements of identification between player/viewer and game/film. It feels nice to step away from mmog’s a teency bit.
Radio To Go
Since the discovery of WOXY.com, I have been an avid advocate for internet radio. The only thing that made me sad when woxy went internet only (abandoning the landlocked AM/FM band of the past) was that I could not take them with me during the day when I stepped away from my computer.
Thanks to Griffin Technologies, now I can bring the whole woxy gang with me! They have a new product called IFill. It basically allows you to record internet radio onto your ipod’s hard drive. You can allocate as much space as you want to it and can replay it on the go. A step beyond the radio, since its recorded, you can skip a song.
Thanks sashay for pointing me in the direction of this great add on. =)
Course on Cinema and Video Games
In my last semester of coursework for my Masters degree and I FINALLY get to take a class that focuses specifically on video games and all the issues that surround them. Our first task is to choose a game and a movie in order to do some comparative work. (It is a cinema course afterall). We must choose a game we have not played and document our play experience (learning curve, immersive elements, interactivity, etc). From my understanding (the course is given in french) we are to compare these elements to the movie that we choose. In the case of mmog players such as myself, we are welcome to document our play in terms of where we are now compared to the process of getting to our specific level.
I am torn between working on mmog related material – character development in mmog’s versus character development in a film (perhaps even a fantasy type film) and taking off into left field and do something I haven’t done at all. I have considered taking Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas and do some work with the game. Although a liscenced game, it breaks a few boundaries in the fact that it is an extension of the movie and not meant to be a replica. That and the fact that the game devs consulted Burton on the making of the game and its script makes it an interesting link between games and movies in contrast to the more traditional “movie made from game” (Tomb Raider, Resident Evil) or “game made from movie” (LoTR, The Incredibles) formula.
I have until Monday to choose – so it’s still a bit up in the air.
The Shift from Print to Screen
I just recieved this month’s Technology Review in the mail and with it came a “Dear Subscriber” letter in it to inform me of some of the new and upcoming changes to the print edition of the magazine such as bimonthly editions and featuring longer articles in the print version and increasing the shorter articles on the website.
Although this shift should not shock me – especially with the crowd who read Technology review. But a part of me is sad that I have to be sitting at a computer to read the fast bits, I will miss being able to read on the bus or subway. As much as I am an advocate (at times) for digital living, there is still some things that paper can do that technology cannot. [Yes, I know I can get web-access on my cell phone, blackberry or palm pilot - but who wants to scroll through lines and lines of miniscule text on a moving vehicle?]
Games & Culture
As mentioned quite a few months ago now, there is a new journal out focusing specifically on(video) games called Games and Culture. Here is a link to the first sample issue. A relative who’s who in Game Studies, the first issue looks like a good read.